Firefighters could be defined as men and women who respond to fires to save people and property. Firefighters are people who put themselves in harms way to serve the public. Firefighters are people who are called when the public is in peril and need immediate intervention to save their lives.
Seriously, I wonder if there are any left among us?
I am unequivocally miffed by the chatter in the social media forums from those who are open about their feelings of “no risk.” It always starts with a photo–one single image of a building, on fire (or not), with the audience invoking question: would you say go or no-go? And almost like magic, enter the easily predictable keyboard incident commanders.
“Establish water supply, establish incident command, call 4th alarm.”
“Hit it with the deck gun/deck pipe/wagon pipe/deluge gun/master stream.”
Some of these keyboard incident commanders are very by the book. Others are merely repeating tactics they have seen in the past. The ones that bother me, that raise my blood pressure, the ones that drive me to take out this fiery frustration on my keyboard are those neigh-sayers among us.
“No-go, not worth the risk.”
“Let it burn.”
“Surround and drown.”
“Better to have 1 dead than 3.”
“That place looks empty, no-go”
Nothing. I am speechless.
What is happing to us? What is happening to our fire service? We are in the problem-solving business. Our citizens call us to solve their problems; we have to have the mindset that we are willing to do whatever it takes to solve their problem. Why this sudden surge in throwing the white flag at any situation that involves risk? I understand risk management and I understand risk versus reward. I also see that the management process is changing the mentality of the fire service. We are being so cautious to point that our first reaction is to not intervene because it puts “us” at risk. Did I miss something? How are we going to fulfill our oldest and noblest mission, “Save lives and protect property” without taking on risk? Should we change it to “Save lives of people already out of the building and protect the buildings near the fire?” There is risk in what we do and it cannot be entirely eliminated unless we just stay in the station. A comparable would be a military officer calling back to the HQ saying, “General, I know you wanted us to move forward and attack the enemy but….. they have rifles and grenades so I think we are just going to wait this one out.”
Instead of risk management/risk avoidance we need to instill in incident commanders the thought process of being intelligently aggressive. Intelligently aggressive means that you are sizing up the scene, utilizing your resources, and taking offensive actions when and where it is appropriate. I am not talking about suicide missions or operating with reckless abandon. No one expects firefighters to throw all caution to the wind and rush into a burning building like they were some fire-eating invincible version of Dwayne Johnson. I am stressing INTELLIGENTLY evaluating the entire scene and making aggressive moves to enter and search tenable areas that may contain victims. If the room has flashed and fire is venting from the window, it may be correct to assume that there are no survivors in that room. But, there may be in the room next to it, or in the hallway, or in the bathroom. Read the building. Read the fire. Read the smoke.
Take control of the situation and manage the problems you see. Be intelligently aggressive. This is why we have tactics such as VES (or VEIS if you need another letter to remind you to close the door). If the first floor is on fire but we need to search the second floor, we ladder the building and go search. We don’t wait until the fire is out and so we can walk in the front door. We search the tenable areas and do not assume it’s not occupied because cars are absent from the driveway. We find a way to solve the problem.
If we wait, we can find a dozen reasons to not go in. You have one overwhelming reason to go in: it is your job and there is a chance for you to make a difference. You cash the paycheck every two weeks, or wear the t-shirt that proudly displays that you walk where the devil dances. It’s time to step up and do your job. Career, paid on-call or volunteer–it doesn’t matter. You took the title, now take the responsibility that comes with it. Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying be reckless or careless or heroic; I am saying be intelligently aggressive. Solve the problem.
As always #TRAINON
Senior Staff Correspondent